Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitterdefended himself from laying off around half of the online platform’s workforce, saying he had “no choice”.
50% of Twitter employees were laid off on Friday, according to Yoel Roth, head of security and integrity at the social media giant.
In a Tweet, Musk said “when it comes to reducing the strength of Twitter, unfortunately there is no other choice when the company is losing over $4 million a day.”
Musk, the world’s richest man, said “Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged.”
On Friday, Twitter Inc temporarily closed its offices after telling employees they would be notified by email later in the day if they were laid off.
Twitter had 7,500 employees before Musk’s takeover, meaning around 3,700 jobs were lost.
The billionaire founder of SpaceX, Tesla and PayPal is seeking to cut costs on the social platform he acquired just a week ago for $44 billion (44.9 billion euros).
In his Tweet defending the layoffs, Musk said all departing employees were offered “3 months of severance pay, which is 50% more than legally required.”
Reports of mass layoffs on Friday raised concerns about content moderation, with NGOs and activists saying the changes could mean more harmful content or misinformation on the site.
Twitter staff tweets said teams responsible for communications, content curation, human rights and machine learning ethics were among those eviscerated, as were some teams in products and engineering.
“To be clear, Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged,” tweeted Friday night, saying “hate speech” had “decline” below normal levels this week.
Advertisers have cut spending amid concerns over content moderation in recent days.
But in a tweet, posted later that day, Roth said most of Twitter’s 2,000 content moderators working on the “frontline” were unaffected.
He said the “downsizing” affected around 15% of people working in Twitter’s trust and safety organization – compared to what he said was a 50% reduction seen across the whole of the company.
Roth added that tackling disinformation remains a “top priority” in the US midterm elections. Most Americans will vote on Tuesday, in a key test for Joe Biden’s presidency.
How Twitter employees take the news
Twitter’s offices were temporarily closed on Friday and all badge access suspended to “help ensure the safety of every employee as well as Twitter’s systems and customer data,” the company said.
Some employees tweeted that their access to the company’s computer system had been blocked and feared it might suggest they had been fired.
“Looks like I’m unemployed y’all. I just remotely logged out of my work laptop and removed it from Slack,” tweeted one user of the @SBkcrn account, whose profile is described as a former manager. senior community on Twitter.
User Rachel Bonn tweeted: “Last Thursday at the SF (San Francisco) office, really the last day Twitter was Twitter. 8 months pregnant and 9 month old. Just cut off from access to a laptop.”
Twitter employees expressed their frustration over the layoffs on the social network, using the hashtag #OneTeam.
A class action lawsuit was filed Thursday against Twitter by its employees, who argued the company was carrying out mass layoffs without providing the required 60-day notice, in violation of federal and California laws.
The lawsuit also asked the federal court in San Francisco to issue an order prohibiting Twitter from soliciting terminated employees to sign documents without informing them of the pending case.
Musk has asked Twitter teams to find up to $1 billion (€1.02 billion) in annual infrastructure cost savings, according to two sources familiar with the matter and an internal Slack message reviewed by Reuters.
He has already gutted the company’s top ranks, firing its chief executive and key financial and legal officers. Others, including those who sit at the top of the company’s advertising, marketing and human resources divisions, have left over the past week.
For the remaining employees, there are also rumors that Twitter’s remote work policy during the pandemic is coming to an end.
“Chaos and Uncertainty”
Musk’s first week as owner of Twitter was shrouded in controversy.
Two company-wide meetings were scheduled, only to be canceled hours later. Employees told Reuters they had to gather information through media reports, private messaging groups and anonymous forums.
The long-awaited layoffs have chilled Twitter’s famous open corporate culture, hailed by many of its employees.
“If you are in an office or on your way to an office, please go home,” Twitter said in the email Thursday.
Shortly after the email landed in employee inboxes, hundreds of people flooded the company’s Slack channels to say goodbye, two employees told Reuters.
Someone invited Musk to join the channel, the sources added.
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